back to OSHA Safety and Health Topics

Page last reviewed: 05/04/2009
  • Occupational Chemical Database. OSHA maintains this chemical database as a convenient reference for the occupational safety and health community. It compiles information from several government agencies and organizations. This database originally was developed by OSHA in cooperation with EPA.
  • Electronic Health and Safety Program (eHASP2). OSHA Expert System. Created in cooperation with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the updated eHASP Guide uses modern (Windows-based) software, site-specific text, and expanded decision logic to assist the user in determining the appropriate controls of health and safety hazards for their sites.
Brownfields - Copyright WARNING: Not all materials on this Web site were created by the federal government. Some content  including both images and text  may be the copyrighted property of others and used by the DOL under a license. Such content generally is accompanied by a copyright notice. It is your responsibility to obtain any necessary permission from the owner's of such material prior to making use of it. You may contact the DOL for details on specific content, but we cannot guarantee the copyright status of such items. Please consult the U.S. Copyright Office at the Library of Congress  to search for copyrighted materials.

The Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act defines brownfields as real property, the expansion, redevelopment or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. They are called brownfields in an effort to distinguish them from undeveloped, pristine land in areas outside of the city (often called greenfields).

Brownfield hazards are addressed in specific standards for the general and construction industries.

OSHA Standards

This section highlights OSHA standards, preambles to final rules (background to final rules), Federal Registers (rules, proposed rules, and notices), and directives (instructions for compliance officers) related to brownfields.

Twenty-five states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have OSHA-approved State Plans and have adopted their own standards and enforcement policies. For the most part, these States adopt standards that are identical to Federal OSHA. However, some States have adopted different standards applicable to this topic or may have different enforcement policies.

Operations at brownfields must comply with either all applicable General Industry standards (29 CFR 1910) or all applicable Construction standards (29 CFR 1926), depending on the nature of work at the site. In addition, if a site is determined to be a "hazardous waste site," that site must comply with the Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) Standard, as listed below.

General Industry (29 CFR 1910)

Construction Industry (29 CFR 1926)

  • 1926 Subpart D, Occupational health and environmental controls
    • 1926.65, Hazardous waste operations and emergency response

Preambles to Final Rules

Federal Registers


Hazard Recognition

In addition to the risk of exposure to dangerous chemicals, the potential hazards at a brownfields site may resemble those found on a construction site and could include heat stress; falls from elevated work surfaces; slips, falls, or cave-ins in excavations or trenches; mechanical and impact hazards associated with heavy equipment and hand-held tools; electrical hazards; and noise exposure. The following references aid in recognizing hazards at a brownfield site.

Exposure Evaluation

Preparing brownfields for productive reuse requires the integration of many elementsfinancial issues, community involvement, liability considerations, environmental assessment and cleanup, regulatory requirements, and moreas well as coordination among many groups of stakeholders. The assessment and cleanup of a site must be carried out in a way that integrates all those factors into the overall redevelopment process. The following links provide information about evaluating exposure to hazards at a brownfields site.


  • Small Business Handbook. OSHA Publication 2209-02R, (2005). Also available as a 260 KB PDF, 56 pages. Helps employers evaluate site activities and identify hazards.

  • Construction Industry Safety and Health Outreach Program. OSHA, (1996, May). Identifies resources that clarify construction standards and assist employers in implementing them.

  • Brownfields Health & Safety: For Sites Evaluated & Remediated under Federal Brownfields Initiatives or State Voluntary Clean-up Programs. OSHA Question and Answer Sheet. Provides compliance information about site assessment and clean-up activities on brownfields.

  • Sector Notebooks. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Provides a list of chemicals and pollutants associated with 30 individual industries.

  • Safety and Health Aspects of EM CX Remediation Technologies. US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Publication No. EM 1110-1-4007, (2003, August 15). This engineering manual contains detailed hazard analyses for 25commonly used EM CX site remediation technologies and is written forUSACE project designers, Architect-Engineers (A-Es) and safety and health professionals. The document serves as a resource in identifying potential hazards unique and/or significant to the technologies addressed along with recommended controls.


OSHA provides several guidance resources for evaluating employee exposure to site chemicals.



Biological hazards like bloodborne pathogens (HIV, Hepatitis B and C) and vector borne diseases (Lyme, West Nile Virus, Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome, Rabies) may be easily overlooked but are often associated with site work.

  • Bloodborne Pathogens and Needlestick Prevention. OSHA Safety and Health Topics Page. Provides links to useful exposure control resources if employees are required to provide first aid or CPR on-site.

  • Lyme Disease Facts [38 KB PDF*, 2 pages]. OSHA Fact Sheet, (2000).

  • Workplace Safety & Health Topics. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A-Z index of all CDC topics.

  • Division of Vector-Borne Diseases (DVBD). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Disease, transmission and exposure control information for mosquito, ticks and flea borne illnesses.

  • Hazards. Electronic Library of Construction Occupational Safety & Health (elcosh). Provides resources for evaluating and controlling common biological hazards during construction.

Possible Solutions

HAZWOPER may or may not apply to your brownfield site. See the OSHA Standards section for answers about when OSHA requires compliance with HAZWOPER. You may be required to comply with HAZWOPER through funding contracts or participation in your state Voluntary Clean-up Program. Information on this page and the OSHA Standards page assist in meeting these requirements.

Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER)

If your brownfield site is considered to be a "hazardous waste site," you must comply with all the regulations contained in the HAZWOPER standard 29 CFR 1910.120 or 29 CFR 1926.65. Use the following references to determine if your site should be classified as a "hazardous waste site."



If your site meets the scope of HAZWOPER, then a qualified person must characterize the site, identifying the presence and concentrations of hazardous substances and their associated risks (29 CFR 1910.120(c)/29 CFR 1926.65(c)). Otherwise, a hazard assessment must be conducted in order to determine if hazards are present, or likely to be present, that necessitate the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) (29 CFR 1910.132(d)).





Many of the resources listed here are also applicable for Physical and Biological hazards.


  • Construction Industry. OSHA. Provides links to OSHA Construction Standards and agency policies.

  • Engineering Manual EM 385-1-1. US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), (2008, November 15). Identifies safety and health requirements including physical hazards and exposure controls.

  • For additional information, see OSHA's Brownfields Exposure Evaluation Safety and Health Topics section.


Additional Information

Related Safety and Health Topics Pages




Other Resources

Accessibility Assistance: Contact the OSHA Directorate of Technical Support and Emergency Management at (202) 693-2300 for assistance accessing PDF materials.

*These files are provided for downloading.